Easy STEM Activities with Items from Home

Posted by Brianna Bell

Children of all ages benefit from exploring freely and finding items that help feed their curiosity. Research shows that early childhood experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) helps to support a child’s success, both socially and academically. Young children and even infants can explore STEM activities by simply engaging with objects that encourage curiosity, problem solving, and experimentation. Below we’ve curated a list of fun STEM activities using items found around the house!

Play with Organic Materials

Little hands sort and explore organic items as STEM sensory play at home

Turn your kitchen into a science lab by experimenting with natural and organic materials. Experiment with cornstarch and water by filling a mixing bowl with a cup of cornstarch, and grabbing a spray bottle with water. Add food coloring for some extra fun. Grab some cheerios, playdough, and spaghetti. Stand the spaghetti up in a rolled up piece of playdough and thread the cheerios on the upright pasta stick. Try to get creative together, and see where the exploration takes you.

Magnatiles Free Play

Little boy builds and engineers with Magnatiles in open ended STEM play

Magnatiles are colorful magnetic tiles that allow children to experiment and play through creative problem-solving and exploration. If you have some Magnatiles around the house, gather them up and enjoy a fun afternoon of STEM creativity. The tiles are also an excellent way to support open-ended play—a style of play that introduces objects without any objective, rules, or guidelines (if your magnatiles come with building instructions you can simply play without them for open-ended playtime).

Sensory Bin Play 

Rice sensory bin with ocean toys from Tiny Tales Boutique for STEM sensory play.

Sensory bins are all the rage, and for good reason too. It’s easy to create a sensory bin with items that are found around your home, however, you can also curate items from shops like TinyTales. Fill your sensory bin with coloured rice, beans, homemade play dough, and create a fun theme with little toys. For example, a gardening themed sensory bin may include dried black beans, small smooth rocks, veggies from the play kitchen, and a little shovel to dig. Add as many or as few items as you’d like!

Build a Tall Tower 

Little hands and minds grow up up up with Manhattan Toy wooden stacker for STEM sensory play

Why not challenge your kiddo to build a tower? Using their problem skills, your little one can experiment with different pieces around the house, whether it’s pillows and cushions, plastic cups, or stones found in the garden. If you have stackers around your home, like these ones found at Manhattan Toys, you can experiment with layering the pieces differently and see what happens.

Make a Marshmallow Invention

Pastel colored large marshmallows fill a jar and overflow into a marshmallow mountain, perfect for engineering and imagination STEM play

Have your mini engineer create an invention using toothpicks and marshmallows (mini marshmallows work great too). This activity will encourage your child to use their imagination and encourages reasoning and critical thinking skills. You can even try spelling out their name using just these two items. Work together as a team and see what creation you can come up with!

Create a Tinker Box

On an orange background an array of colorful crafting items like paper, string, beads, scissors, tapes, cloth and glue lay out as examples of items for a STEM tinker box for sensory and imaginative play

For kiddos who love to explore with their hands, why not create a tinker box that you can return to again and again? Grab an unused box in the house, and gather household items to put inside the box. Some times that you might want to add to your tinker box include: buttons, string, glue, different types of tape, feathers, pom poms, construction paper, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, stickers, wooden dowels and pegs, and recycled materials such as food pouch caps. Putting together your tinker box is also a fun and creative activity to get your kids involved with, perhaps they’ll find something useful in the house that you wouldn’t have thought of!

Now that you have some ideas it’s time to gather up your items and have a fun afternoon exploring with your little one.

As always, make sure you supervise your kids during free play, particularly around small items. Please keep all choking hazards away from little ones three and under.


Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based out of Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including Scary Mommy, The Penny Hoarder, and The Globe & Mail. 

Brianna's budget-savvy ways has attracted media attention, and led to newspaper coverage in The Globe & Mail and The Guelph Mercury. In April 2016 Brianna will be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less, alongside co-writer Brooke Burke. You can find Brianna's website at Brianna Bell Writes.